With the holiday season officially behind us, most of us are back to the grind, working towards our 2018 goals and resolutions. “Be more productive” is a goal shared by many. IT marketers will tell you technology is the key to being more productive in today’s workplace. Most fail to tell you that’s only true when that technology is used correctly. Some of the tools you use every day to be more productive can actually distract you from getting your most important tasks done. Here are three common culprits and how to take control of them to be your most productive self:
Knowledge workers spend an average of 28% of their time reading and responding to email. While it is a convenient way to communicate, the distraction caused by email can adversely affect worker productivity. Take control of the impact email has on your day. First, unsubscribe to unnecessary newsletters and solicitations you never read. Those emails lead to clutter in your inbox that can both overwhelm and distract you from what is important. Second, set a time to check and respond to email. If the email requires an action, do it then. If the email is a task that belongs to someone else in your workplace, delegate it. If the email is junk, delete it (after you unsubscribe from the mailing to stop future messages). Archive messages you may want to refer back to at a later date.
Stick to your schedule. Do not use email as a boredom buster or a reason to break away from what you should really be doing.
2. Productivity Suites
Microsoft’s Office 365 Suite and Google’s G Suite are commonly used to create documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Are you taking advantage of the collaboration tools available as part of these productivity suites? If you are not, and you frequently create these documents in collaboration with others, you may be losing productive time.
Before these productivity tools evolved into collaboration tools, the documents were commonly shared with others by email attachment. Often one individual creates a file and emails it as an attachment to others. Those individuals download the file, make edits then individually email the file back. The result is multiple versions of the same document each containing their own edits. It’s difficult to ensure all the changes are made and can take a significant amount of time to sort them all out.
When you take advantage of the collaboration features built into OneDrive, part of Microsoft’s Office 365 suite, or Drive, part of Google’s G Suite, you eliminate the time-consuming process of sending files back and forth over email and the time wasted trying to identify and merge all changes. Instead, a link to the data is shared from a centralized location. Security rules can be established ensuring the file is accessible by only those individuals who should have access. Once the file is shared, it can be accessed by multiple users simultaneously. When logged in to the file, those individuals can see the updates and changes others are making to the document in real time.
3. Push Notifications on Mobile Devices
Your mobile device can become a constant source of disruption if you let it. While your smartphone, for example, offers you the opportunity to be productive when on the go, it can also serve as the ultimate source of distraction. Constant notifications of phone calls, instant messages, text messages, email alerts, social media notifications, etc. can be very difficult to ignore especially once you develop the habit of immediately responding to every sound.
Do you really need an instant notice or alert every time someone follows you on Twitter or posts a message on your Facebook wall? Take control and turn off non-essential notifications. Studies have shown that individuals who receive notifications while attempting to perform tasks will make three times the number of errors than their non-notification receiving counterparts even if the notification-receiving bunch did not check the messages. Reducing the number of live alerts you receive on your devices you will not only will you stay on task, but you’ll reduce the number of errors you make as well.
4. Social Media
Social media can be a wonderful asset to your organization. You can use it to promote your business, equip your sales team with intelligence about prospective customers, and stay on top of the latest information related to your market. Checking social media sites is also one of the most common ways we interrupt ourselves from doing the work we should be doing.
If you find yourself having a hard time breaking the habit, there are free apps to help you with that. SelfRestraint for PC users and SelfControl for Mac users are applications that save you from yourself. Both allow you to identify the websites that are distracting to you and set a blackout time. Even restarting your computer will not grant you access to those sites during that time. The use of these applications isn’t just limited to social media sites. You can use them to help you block your access to any website you find to be a distraction.
Technology is here to stay. With a little strategy and discipline, you can ensure you reap the benefits these tools offer while staying productive.